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Saturday, October 16, 2010

Deep State

Humayun Gauhar    

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: this parliament must complete its natural life, no matter how bad it gets, as must the provincial assemblies. This is an absolute imperative. Else we won’t grow and mature politically and the system will not evolve. If any changes have to be made, they must only come constitutionally. There are three ways to do this:
1.     The National Assembly can elect a new prime minister if the incumbent feels that he has lost the confidence of the majority of its members or if he simply doesn’t want to continue, for whatever reason.

2.     The National Assembly must pass a vote of no confidence in the prime minister by a two-thirds majority and then elect a new one from amongst its members. So too the president, by parliament and all the provincial assemblies.

3.     The prime minister could call early elections, which only he can.
The same applies to the provinces where the chief ministers have the same authority in their respective provinces. With the power of the president to dissolve the National Assembly and of governors to dissolve their provincial assemblies gone, these are the only constitutional routes available.
The ‘Deep State’, as the Americans call it, must keep its hands off. If it cannot, let it first show if it has any realistic solutions to our deep problems. However, if it can’t help intervening and then follows the same old Standard Operating Procedure, or apply what is called the ‘Kakar Formula’ or copy some other country’s failed model, it would be doing us no service at all. It should realize that all such nostrums have proved to be so much humbug. Pakistan will remain frozen in time, like a yoyo oscillating between civilian and Deep State rule. It can serve Pakistan’s interests best by laying-off as much as possible.
Test this system to its limit, no matter how dire it gets. This is the only way the system can correct itself, if indeed it contains a self-correcting gene. If it cannot, let it fall flat on its face by itself. Don’t push it. If you do, you will make a martyr of it and unnecessarily prolong its life, as we have already done many times. If it contains any inherent life and relevance, it will improve. If it does not, it will fail, but it will fail by itself, not be forced to seem to have failed. We have aborted the people’s learning experience repeatedly and paid dearly for it. Let the people learn and decide for themselves whether they like this constitution or they want something different. Let them decide whether they want this political system or that. Let them decide which politicians and political parties are good and which are bad. Let them decide what democracy really means. And let them strive towards it. It is only through experience, and mostly through bitter experience, that human beings learn – but only if you don’t keep aborting that learning process.
The usual problems associated with civilian rule – corruption verging on loot and a total absence of governance – were to be expected, no matter which party or parties formed the government. No surprises here. This is in the nature of the governments this system will throw up in a largely feudal country with an agrarian economy.
The new problem is the president: powerless though he may now be, he is also the co-Chairperson of the ruling party. That is where he derives real power from and that is what is holding the prime minister and his cabinet hostage, for fear that if they don’t comply with the president’s wishes they risk not getting party tickets come the next elections. If Mr. Zardari is forced out of the presidency, he will still continue to wield his real power over the executive. The change will only be cosmetic. If the courts rule that he cannot hold dual offices (albeit one is private and without profit) he will hit back and hit back hard. He might force a vote in the National Assembly that the executive order of the prime minister reinstating the Supreme Court judges was invalid. The cute argument that they were never thrown out of office in the first place may prove to be just so much sophistry. So let’s be careful, lest we force the Deep State in.
Rational pragmatism demands that the judges must decide how far to go and which is more important – Pakistan or the constitution? The time to amputate a limb to save the body, as Abraham Lincoln said, has not yet come. Our pseudo analysts keep referring to Article 190; I don’t see how it provides for the Supreme Court to order the army to intervene. The justices should know that even if the Deep State follows the so-called Bangladesh Model – which is unconstitutional anyway – they could be its earliest victims.
A frustrated, cynical people ask: will the army save us when there is nothing left to save? Did it save us in the past or just gave us breathing space and left us back at square one? And why did you the people elect this assembly in the first place? Don’t duck the question by saying that you didn’t vote. That is terrible. Our responsibility is collective regardless of which way a particular person voted or didn’t vote at all. Now we have to learn our lessons so that we don’t make the same mistakes again – hopefully.
The Deep State is a state within a state, very much like the Khwaraji concept. Here the state within largely comprises the army, the ISI and the USA with its intelligence, defense and official and unofficial security organs. The army should know that even if it is forced to intervene, directly or indirectly, by the Deep State, America may support it covertly but will oppose it overtly for hypocritical appearances sake, with economic sanctions imposed. That is in its nature. A bankrupt treasury and an economy near collapse will not be able to withstand the strain and we will fall either totally in America’s lap or the many laps religious extremist groups with each carving out his own warlord-like fief. Therein lie the seeds of disintegration. Think about it.
(Humayun Gohar is a free lance writer and an analyst).


  1. It is easy for Mr.Humayun to say that people must endure but how much,how far and how long? There seems no possibility of an election demand from within, there is no way that an election could be forced from out side save general disturbances and total chaos, loss of life and property. Why did people elect this assembly-- people are led this way through strong and highly paid and motivated half a million party workers who see to it that people vote to their nominees at dire cost. These workers are no ordinary people, they are same historical types who are called fascists and have made it possible for the most corrupts to be the most powerful from the dawn of the democracy. They did it in Germany, they did it for Stalin and they are still doing where ever system has not caught with them.They get their share from the proceeds of corrupt businesses of the state and even through the fully state protected crimes against the citizens.

  2. I am in receipt of 2 mails that I share here. First by Saqib Awan:
    I don't understand?! How you are to expect any good or change from the current regime? Your notion of democratic change might work anywhere else where there is some sort of maturity in the system, but it's not there in Pakistan. Unfortunately, drastic measures are required for the change in Pakistan and those measures may not be democratic at all!

  3. Here is the second by F. Yousufzai:
    if we remember,every now and then we talk of regime change.this has been going on since independance, went through all the tahareeks and still we are at the same position.the point is that do we expect the new comer to be able to apply a magic wand.nothing can get better unless we1) reduce expenditures,rationalise taxation,revive productive sectors and bring accountability2)work for quality education for all and develop a socially decent and economically just environment,and 3)organise all pillars of government and start good governance.
    this is not possible unless we carve out a new system of governance where some body should oversee the government and periodically perform functional audit.

  4. Another from M. Idrees:
    valid and sensible. In fact, the only option, PATIENCE and everyone acting righteously.

  5. If the people wait for the next elections and give the rest of the mandated time to the present regime, then it might as well happen that the same people are re-elected. Then with the same corrupt, myopic, and self-serving lot, people will wait for the next elections
    The basic flaw in Pakistan's adult franchise is that no one can freely vote according his or her conscience or choice. There is a morbid institution in our country called feudalism. This is a kind of state within a state, run by local feudals or big landlords. Not a bird can fly or a blade of grass grows without their consent and approval. So the exercise of voting becomes futile if the bonded people in a fiefdom cannot vote anyone else except the feudal lord or his nominee.
    Besides there are pirs, self appointed shrine keepers, the so-called saints, spiritual healers, and shamans whom ordinary people hold in awe and esteem. They may be corrupt and lewd to the hilt still people vote for them or their chosen candidates. So the elections in Pakistan turn farcical, sham, and meaningless with the presence of these abominable symbols of spiritism, aristocracy, and imperialism.
    To make the elections fair, free, and truly democratic, these two institutions must first be abolished or rendered toothless and ineffectual. Otherwise, we may have an exercise of holding elections for a century and yet we shall have the same faces in parliament and in positions of power.
    I shall also dwell briefly on backdoor manipulations, use of money and influence and even arm twisting during the time of elections that also defeat and subvert the pristine purpose of electing the right people. As such, an operation by the people (angels) descending from heaven can clear this Augean stable of multifarious problems. And if we expect of any earthly power to intervene and set the things right then it is only the army that have coercive power and network to perform this herculean task. But army is not either manned by angels. Army’s track record too is not very enviable. Then is left the peoples revolution. Where is the thunderous and charismatic or a revolutionary leader to stir and start such a revolution?
    The ground realties are complicated.
    Saeed Qureshi

  6. Muhammad Zubair:
    As usual, a very sensible argument. Let them do all the damage they can and face the elections. I wonder which PPP leader they will kill next time since that seems to be the only way PP builds sympathy vote.

  7. Mail from Mumtaz Piracha:
    A parliament that came into being under the military rule of the former general-president Pervez Musharraf and its members elected/selected in an unfair and biased manner has NO right to stay.

    All actions of the former president were held null and void selectively from Nov 3, 2007 onwards but the elections conducted under his command and commandments as well as his nominated Election Commission are NOT declared null and void.

    New elections are a MUST to provide an equal opportunity to all contesting candidates and parties in a fair, free and transparent manner.

    The easiest and the fairest way to get rid of the parliament elected on fake degrees and personal whims of the then rulers is to declare the general elections of Feb 2008 null and void.

    By the way, we already have 40+ percent elected legislators under suspicion who have failed to provide the required information about their degrees.

    Is'nt it a joke that we are disqualifying legislators who contested the general elections on fake degrees but keeping the president who did not have the degree in the first place?

    We need to behave like a civilized nation who believes in the rule of law. We are consistently mixing legal and illegal contents and passing judgements and orders at our convenience and conviction.

    Mumtaz A. Piracha
    Good Governance Forum

  8. Mail by Javed Chaudhry(EXPRESS NEWS FAME):
    The fact that some of the legislators are being chased for lack of degrees while the president is being exempted from this requirement is an evidence of lack of fairness and equitable laws in the country. There is one set of rules for some and another for others.

    It is surprising that not many have raised any objection to the fact that the president, being the head of the state is also a partisan. Not only merely a partisan, but actually the head of a political party (on paper, it is his son who is the actual head of the party but we all know the reality on the ground). Same goes for all the governors. In a country where the leadership of a political party is transferred from mother to son through a will, one cannot hope to progress. All of these little consideration play a role in the governance of the country. We are in 21st century, not in the 12th!

    Although there are demands for new elections from various corners, would the new elections solve the basic Pakistani economic problems or change the political culture in any way? With the feudal lords rampant in the country, wide spread poverty and a very high level of illiteracy while the economy has gone to the dogs, I fail to see if a new election would bring some thing new to the table to change Pakistan’s fate.
    Next time around it may be the ML-N in power, would that make any difference to the country? Are these people not the members of the same feudal lords club and hence do they not have the same mentality?

    As I have alluded to in one of my previous letters, Pakistan needs to come up with a revolutionary and an innovative scheme of holding elections which is independent of the need of money for the campaigns and both the voters as well the recipients of votes must by highly educated and very aware of the basic socio-economic problems. The notion of the universal suffrage is not going to serve the country at this time – it can be adapted perhaps in a couple of centuries.

    Pakistan cannot afford to keep experimenting with the same inputs and then expecting different results from the outputs. With prevalent lack of adequate political culture in the country and without changing the rules of the game, the result of an election will always be the same as long as it’s the same handful few who dominate the political landscape of the country. The people of Pakistan must think outside the box, the box which is already under the control of so many sticky fingers.

    Pakistan as a country cannot progress with any of those at the helm who are or have been among the ruling classes/elites. Pakistan has no shortage of intelligent and patriotic people, except that they do not have financial means to come forward and be elected for the top positions where they can make a difference. The way the political games have been played in Pakistan, it has not served the society as a whole, except, a handful few take full advantage for personal gains at the cost of the millions of ordinary citizens.